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4 questions Georgia must answer in the Rose Bowl
We’ve been building to College Football Playoff semifinal for almost a month now, but the final weekend before the Rose Bowl showdown with Oklahoma is finally upon us. We’ll return on Monday — New Year’s Day — with a full wrap up of everything you need to know about the Rose Bowl. Until then, I’ll leave you with these questions to ponder over the holiday weekend.
1. Will Georgia’s pass rushers get to Baker Mayfield? If it’s been said once it’s been said a thousand times, but the Rose Bowl will come down to the effectiveness of Mayfield against Georgia’s defense. If Lorenzo Carter or Davin Bellamy or one of a number of talented UGA pass rushers can sack Mayfield or even just give him a couple of licks early, it could mess with Oklahoma’s rhythm and change the entire dynamic of the game.
2. Can Jake Fromm have a transcendent performance? Georgia’s freshman signal caller has answered every question asked of him and improved each week, concluding with a 183-yard, 2-touchdown showing in the SEC Championship Game, his most poised performance of the year. He still hasn’t imposed his will on a game yet, though. There haven’t been a lot of opportunities for such a moment, considering how heavily Georgia relies on its ground game, which it’ll probably do once again against the Sooners. But with 13 games in his pocket, Fromm isn’t a greenhorn anymore. The time for him to let it rip and take control is coming soon, whether it be this season or next. If that moment comes in the Rose Bowl, Georgia’s chances of winning will receive a major boost.
3. What effect will special teams have on the outcome? The Oklahoma offense vs. Georgia defense is a strength-for-strength matchup, while the OU defense and UGA offense are well-matched with perhaps a slight edge to the Bulldogs. Georgia is favored by less than a field goal. All signs point to a big special teams play having major implications. There’s always the possibility of a blocked kick or punt or even a trick play. I think Mecole Hardman could house a punt. Oklahoma seems less threatening in the return game. But with a two-point spread, a field goal is the most likely special teams play to make a difference. Oklahoma kicker Austin Seibert and UGA kicker Rodrigo Blankenship both have 15 made field goals with a long of 49 yards this season, so the difference could be who’s in better form on the day, or who gets more opportunities to make his form count.
4. Can Georgia limit the mental mistakes and penalties? It was (understandably) glossed over in the wake of SEC title celebrations, but Georgia committed plenty of boneheaded penalties in the SEC Championship Game. In the early goings, I thought I was watching a repeat of the 40-17 loss on the Plains. Georgia committed 7 penalties for 75 yards in the loss at Auburn and 7 penalties for 71 yards in the SEC Championship Game. In both games, penalties on third-downs extended Auburn drives that ended in touchdowns. The Dawgs cleaned a lot of that up in the second half of the championship, which is why they won 28-7, and it needs to stay that way. Oklahoma has the best, most explosive offense in the country. A single extra play is all Mayfield and his crew need to put six on the board. Giving the Sooners free plays is just asking to have points scored on you.
‘We blocked better’
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney made his bi-annual media appearance Thursday, a much more cheery meeting than his pre-Liberty Bowl presser this time last year. That’s no surprise, considering his offense has transformed from a confusing mess into the power running master class that was envisioned when Chaney was hired over the last 12 months.
Analysts, pundits and fans have spent plenty of time trying to dissect what has made the offense this year so much more dynamic than the offense last year, with many pointing to a perceived uptick in run-pass options. But Chaney chalked the improvement up to something a bit more simple: better blocking from better players. From Seth Emerson of DawgNation:
“People think, ‘Let’s change, let’s put a wideout over here, a tight end over here.’ Hell, I want to block better! I just want to block better,” Chaney said. “I sit here a year later, and you ask me what’s the difference in last year and this year? We blocked better.”
So how did that happen? How did the offensive line improve despite losing three starters? That might also have been the Year 2 and familiarity effect, with the players and line coach Sam Pittman getting used to each other. But personnel clearly helped.
“Andrew [Thomas] coming in at right tackle and making that solid, and Isaiah [Wynn] moving out to the left, making us solid on the edges, we had really good tackle play throughout the season,” Chaney said. “And the three inside guys have battled hard. It’s been fun to watch those guys. But they play so hard as heck. I see that position on that offense growing to a standard where we can do what we want in any game.”
Odds & Ends
- Dan Wolken of USA Today writes about how Georgia, college football’s sleeping giant, has finally woken up.
- The Rose Bowl will be just the next opportunity for Fromm to prove he’s ready for the big stage.
- Chaney didn’t say much regarding Jacob Eason’s future with Georgia.
- Notes and news from Georgia’s second practice in southern California.
- Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will go down as one of the best tailback duos ever.
- Chip Towers of DawgNation previews Oklahoma.
Dawgs on Twitter
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) December 29, 2017
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) December 28, 2017
— scott sinclair (@coach_sinclair) December 28, 2017
Never give up 😂😍 pic.twitter.com/uyldXBaLI7
— Puppy Pics (@CuteDogPlcs) December 28, 2017
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